Pre-Nationals up next for cross country

If the Marquette men’s and women’s cross country teams thought their meet at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational last weekend was big — in terms of the competition and sheer number of teams — this weekend will be a gigantic.

The NCAA Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind. Saturday features 72 men’s and 75 women’s teams, compared to the 13 men’s and 12 women’s teams last weekend. Coach Mike Nelson has great respect for this meet because of the deep talent pool his players get to compete against.

“This meet is borderline the most competitive and deep cross country race in the world,” Nelson said. “We’re talking about almost 800 guys and girls, and 650 of them are probably running at a very high level.”

Nelson would like to see his teams finish better than any other teams since he’s been the coach at Marquette. The men would need to finish better than 27th and the women better than 19th.

“I think that’s well within our grasp, but we’ll have to do what we’re capable of to do that,” Nelson said. “Not every guy or girl has to have the race of their life, but we’ll need to run well to accomplish that goal.”

For the women, senior Jayne Grebinski didn’t want to set any goals for herself or the team like Nelson did but said for the women’s team to do well every girl needs to take care of her business.

“I think, especially our top seven runners, these girls know what they’ve got to do, and we’re going to do it this weekend,” Grebinski said. “Now I think we’re just trying to encourage everyone to play it smart but really push themselves at the same time.”

What Grebinski has enjoyed about this meet in the past is that it’s a great spectator course.

“It’s cool to have family members and friends coming and supporting you,” Grebinski said. “It can also be really intimidating because you have a huge crowd in front of you, but you just need to focus on yourself, your race and just go with it.”

On the men’s side, junior Nick Szczech said he enjoys the NCAA Pre-Nationals because there are so many talented teams to compete against.

“At Pre-Nationals, we’re kind of just in the mix, not like the smaller meets earlier in the year where we had most of the top runners,” Szczech said. “It takes a lot of pressure off, because you can just run and compete instead of focusing on times and place and this and that. It’s more just about competing and beating the person in front of you.”